Today’s Women’s Global Leadership Summit, organised by Women in Music (WIM) association and sponsored by HMUK, Nielsen and Fox Rothschild, became a celebratory platform for empowering female members of the international music community at Midem this morning.

US-based Jennifer Newman Sharpe, general counsel of digital distributor ONErpm and owner of music-community sharing service Sparkplug, snapped up WIM’s first ever Guardian Award at Midem during a special ceremony. She was honoured for her work in championing and mentoring women in the industry. She said: “Mentorship is about recognising greatness in someone else, championing it, and being a great role model for it.”

WIM CEO Jessica Sobhraj then presented the Trailblazer Award to Neeta Ragoowansi, senior vice president at Nprex, the music-licensing marketplace. “Let us look for more gender and culture diversity in our playlists,” she said.

Chris Clark, director of music at US ad agency Leo Burnett (second from left below), said during the follow-up panel: “In my quest for music, I consider women for it. It is so easy. And I ask clients I work with whether they are working with women on (any given) project. Men need to give a shit.”

Yesterday, the first day of Midem delivered three well-received keynotes from different sectors of the industry, with South African artist and entrepreneur Black Coffee; BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch; and Citi global consumer CMO Jennifer Breithaupt taking to the main stage.

BMG boss Masuch talked about artists taking control, pitching his company as a services-based alternative to traditional major-label deals in his interview with Variety’s Shirley Halperin. “You could behave pretty disgracefully [in the past]in your relationship with the creative community, because you controlled bottlenecks,” he said. “We thought the digital world would suggest very different relationships. Artists can take over much more control than they ever had before… Actually, we shaped our company to be a service company. It’s very important that what we do is absolutely coordinated with what our clients want to do, and is in their interests. We are the good guys!

Masuch also laid out BMG’s ambitions to be counted alongside the biggest music companies in the industry. “I think we can do whatever you think a major should be able to do. Yes, we are the fourth major,” he said. “Our DNA by acquiring some very important independent companies is that we share the values of those independent companies… But our ambition is that we are a major. A major for me means you have global access to the markets, and you are able to give artists a global perspective on several parameters: recording and publishing. To say we’re the leading independent would be to shy away from the ambition that we have.” Read more from his keynote in Music Ally’s report.

DJ/producer Black Coffee then delivered a rousing call to his fellow artists in Africa to build their own future. “We can take the money we generate from our gigs or whatever, and put it back into ourselves. Africa is ready today to create a new Africa where we create solutions that are for us, and by us. That is my African dream,” he told interviewer Milana Lewis from Stem.

WP Livestream

“I’m trying to change the narrative of the continent. How can we create things that work for us? How can we stop plugging in to things brought to us by other people,” he later added. “For how long do we need to be saved by other people? When are we going to start creating our own things? All the things that I get involved in are about changing the narrative… We need to make our own rules…”

Black Coffee also talked about independence, and his hopes that his Gongbox service – a combination of streaming platform and social network – can encourage artists to take control of their careers. “It connects to encouraging artists to create their own labels. That’s what we want with Gongbox: we want artists to stop signing contracts with other people. We want artists to own their own music. And here is the platform for you,” he said. More from his keynote can be found in Music Ally’s report on the Midem African Forum.

Citi’s Jennifer Breithaupt spent her keynote talking about how a big financial brand works with music and with artists. She had some advice for the latter on the mistakes they can make when partnering with a brand. She was interviewed by Bill Werde.

“Certainly there can be some poor behaviour over the years, you see it once in a while. I don’t always think it’s necessarily the artist. I think it’s the people around the artist. I’m very clear with artists and bands around that: be careful who represents you…” she said. “There are some really lovely people, and we go out of our way to work with them, because they show up on time and work in the right way.”

Breithaupt also gave her view on virtual reality technology, which is something Citi has been involved with on the music side of its partnerships. Is it ready for mass-market acceptance? “We’ve done a lot in the music space, and it’ still a little bit clunky, and the experience is just not there. It really doesn’t replicate standing in an audience with a lot of other fans watching a live show… It’s a technology to stay with… but we haven’t found a wow yet.” Read Music Ally’s report on her keynote for more.

Yesterday’s Streaming Summit threw up some intriguing discussions around playlists, curation and the potential for local streaming services to compete with the global giants like Spotify and Apple Music, meanwhile.

“In the last several years, the consolidation of the major editorial playlist curators for Spotify, Apple, Amazon and a couple of others in North America has been astounding,” said Thaddeus Rudd (right), co-president of independent label Mom + Pop Music. “There are 12 people who control the playlists that have global impact, and which have the most impact on new music being streamed on these services. I could name them!

Pete Downton, deputy-CEO at 7digital, compared this to radio. “Just the reality of a handful of people having to exert editorial control means the human component is much smaller than it was in the old radio world… About 40% of consumption on streaming services is from curator playlists, but streaming is still a relatively small portion of all music consumption,” he noted. “The challenge is how do you make sure there’s enough human input, and enough local input into how those editorial choices are made.”

A following session on local streaming services saw Venesa Hoffman, VP EMEA at Napster, call for flexibility – even in an industry very much focused on smartphones. “It’s about finding a relevant service for those markets. Some African markets, the smartphone might not be the best thing to start streaming with… Who said that streaming services are exclusive to smartphones? Somehow it happened, but this was not by design,” she said.

Scott Cohen, co-founder of The Orchard, gave his backing to local streaming platforms. “I also see the huge value in the local services. You could be in the Middle East and have Anghami, which is really important, because unless you’re putting all your metadata in Arabic, you’re going to have a hard time penetrating the market. Or you go to Russia and you have Yandex and VK. It’s really important right now to have local players in those markets, and they’re actually outperforming the big ones… We don’t want to allow the major players in each market to shrink down to just one or two,” he said. Read Music Ally’s report on this pair of sessions for more views.

Africa was a running theme of the day, with Tencent Africa‘s chief commercial officer for music Thabiet Allie sitting down for an afternoon interview with Ralph Simon. He talked about what Tencent is doing with its Joox digital-music service in South Africa.

“We’re not trying to fight for the small space where people are already spending money: we’re not trying to get people to move from Spotify or Deezer or Apple to us. The intention is to build a new space with a new audience,” said Allie, who stressed that South Africa is currently a very dynamic market in terms of streaming competition. “Everyone’s spending money, investing in building artists, and investing in trying to change the narrative of music consumption from illegal music to legal music.” Read Music Ally’s full report on his session.

Day two of Midem 2018 saw the Midemlab pitching sessions, with 20 startups competing across four categories this year. The morning saw the pitches for the music creation and education, and the music discovery and distribution categories.

In the creation and education category, Voice Magix showed off its use of artificial intelligence to automatically synchronise lyrics with music, saving time on getting humans to do it (for example for karaoke apps, or streaming services); Aiva also pitched AI, but this time AI that can compose music, having been trained on an array of classical-music works, which can then be used for video or games soundtracks; Taplyrica showed its app for learning foreign languages by listening to music and reading lyrics, which will launch soon; Skoove demoed its app for teaching people to play the piano, giving them real-time feedback on how well they’re learning; and MXX pitched its AI technology for editing music to fit the intensity and dynamics of video. Music Ally’s session report has full details of each pitch.

In the discovery and distribution category, Laylo showed its app that gamifies music-discovery, with people sharing music with their friends and receiving credit for spotting new tunes first; Listen! pitched a platform for centralising access to music, drawing from various services, so that people can listen and share; Lickd explained how it wants to help the music industry license tracks to YouTubers and other social-video creators; Boreas showed off an app that helps musicians get their music heard by increasingly-large circles of users, spreading like a location-based virus; and Louise pitched an app that helps people listen to music live with their friends, while chatting about it. Music Ally’s session report has full details of each pitch.

Wednesday’s first Midem Legal Summit session, The Legal Update for Entertainment and Technology, summed up how violation of all types of rights can be detrimental on a personal level.

Lawyer Camille Burkhart, of France-based law firm Nomos, focused on the case involving the family of the late French superstar Johnny Hallyday and his estate. The contentious case centred on why the artist’s moral rights went to his wife and not his children. His wife and record label, which was involved because of Hallyday’s unfinished recordings, lost the first hearing.

Monika Tashman, of US legal group Fox Rothschild, presented a case study on behaviour in the workplace during today’s #MeToo era. “It has opened doors to conversations about it in the industry. No one has to endure physical and emotional abuse at work. Sexual safety should be a non-issue.”

Meanwhile, the session on African Artists: The New Influencers of Global Music became a passionate conversation about the expanding international impact of an often neglected region.

Stephane Kazcorowski, SVP at Trace Music, added: “Africa provides so much talent and artists internationally. Something will pop up soon because all the major music companies are saying the next global hit artist will come from Africa.”

South Africa-based French entrepreneur Yoel Kenan, founder of Africori, declared: “One thing Africa teaches you is you need to live in the now. I also believe the next global pop superstar will come from Africa but very likely supported by a US, French or UK label, but the talent will be African.”

Akotchaye Okio, of French collecting society Sacem, observed: “The trend in African music is here to stay because it is much more than the music. But let’s remember that Africa music was also hot in the 1980s. It is just that today, the artists are much more independent in spirit. They want to own their own businesses.”

Binetou Sylla, owner of Monde Africa/Syllart Records, stated: “Now many more of the African music is being made by artists and labels who are from Europe but with African roots they are proud of.”

Not forgetting Sync: an enlightening panel on Wednesday notably featured The Crown’s music supervisor discussing the importance for the music industry of music for images today.


Additional reporting by Juliana Koranteng

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Stuart Dredge is a freelance journalist, and a regular contributor to Music Ally, The Observer and more... including midemblog :)

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